The findings are obvious. If your firm is not embracing the expansion of Client Accounting and Advisory Services (CAAS) within your practice, you are missing out on a huge growth opportunity.
CPA.com and the AICPA PCPS released the findings of their latest Client Advisory Services (CAS) Benchmark Survey and found that CAAS delivered a median growth rate of 16%, building upon the double-digit growth spurts of the previous two years.
The explosion of interest in CAAS within the accounting profession is obvious, as leading firms, consultants, application vendors and training organizations have all honed in on advisory as the future of professional accounting services. They see traditional services being disintermediated by new competitors, particularly by cloud technology that is automating many of the “rote” components of traditional bookkeeping and accounting services.
For firms that have made the jump or are on the path to transitioning their services to a CAAS model, the benefits are obvious: higher value services driving higher profits; a balancing of workloads throughout the year, and higher client and staff satisfaction, with employees doing more rewarding accounting and advisory work.
I believe there are six key mindsets to help you effectively transition your firm towards CAAS. Everyone in your firm needs to be aware of and adopt these mindsets.
This can be difficult to comprehend while you are in the midst of another busy season and have more work than you know what to do with, but the question you should be asking is this: Are grinding busy seasons the way you want to spend the rest of your career?
Technological automation is evolving to do more and more of traditional compliance work and will eventually replace bookkeeping and basic tax processing services (sooner than you think!). Your best choice is to adopt these tools and to become more proactive in helping your clients be successful, which leads to focusing on advisory work. Your clients will see advisory work as extremely valuable and appreciate your firm for doing it.
There’s a strong trend we’re seeing among the most successful CAAS practices. They are becoming increasingly specialized in niches or industry segments in which they can leverage unique knowledge they already have. Technology has erased geographical boundaries, making an expert in one metropolitan area available throughout the entire state, region or even country.
Being in the cloud expands your potential audience for clients (and potential employees) to anyone who has Internet access. Without a doubt, successful CAAS practices are building their technology stacks entirely in the cloud, where enterprise-level providers deliver the most robust, integrated and secure solutions available today. Learning to build a tech stack that supports the tools most utilized by specific niches also positions your firm to develop leverageable expertise. That, in turn, makes your firm more effective and profitable.
While I’m no marketing expert, I have found that being known as a leader, driver or “famous person” within any niche brings in more business than any marketing campaign. So, I recommend firms take this path when developing a CAAS practice.
That means letting others in the same niche know that you are providing business with useful information (industry articles, trends, survey results) and enabling all your niche members to develop the firm’s expertise. Asking the question, “What types of people and skills will grow this practice 10X?” will start you on the path to CAAS expertise.
Rapid changes in business applications and services, along with technology linking together financial data sets and enabling creation of dashboards, will require firms to be experts at identifying and learning new ways of working…as well as unlearning old ways. Successful CAAS practices are constantly looking to improve how they service clients, piloting new tools that they can leverage within their client base and ensuring that people have the training and resources to effectively learn to use them.
Everyone needs to be on board with promoting advisory services, so firms need to evaluate their compensation structure to see whether it supports the growth of an advisory practice…or fights against it. Some firm agreements promote short-term profitability, which rewards those efficient at grinding out busy seasons versus focusing on what is best for the firm in the long run. Rewarding those who help the firm grow in the long term needs to be a priority.
I hope noodling on these six different mindsets will prove the onus to get you excited to start or expand your Client Accounting Services with the addition of advisory services, as I truly believe that this will be a key differentiator in firms that thrive in the future. If you are not yet convinced, I would like to invite you to watch this webinar: Innovation of CAAS: Building and succeeding in your practice.
Want to find out how the cloud can enable your firm to build a CAAS practice? Get started here.
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